Bill Smith/Chicago Bulls

Bulls win 5th straight, beat Bucks 117-106

Bulls improve to 21-12 on the season

By Sam Smith | 1.5.2015 | 9:10 p.m.

The Bulls high scoring express Tuesday kept going with a 117-106 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks in the United Center.

It was the fifth straight and sixth win in the last seven games for the Bulls, who now are 21-12. It was the team’s eighth consecutive game scoring more than 100 points.

The Bulls were led by Jimmy Butler, who continued his impressive play with 32 points and 10 assists. Pau Gasol added 26 points, 11 rebounds and five assists and Derrick Rose in his return from a hamstring issue had 16 points and six assists. Nikola Mirotic had 14 points and Taj Gibson 11 points and 14 rebounds. Khris Middleton had 26 points for the Bucks, who fell to 14-23.

The Bulls got Rose back after a three-game absence for a hamstring problem. Rose had a precautionary examination Monday following some knee soreness, but that proved of no major concern. The Bulls came into the game with four straight wins and scoring more than 100 points in seven consecutive games since the loss in New York.

The Bulls finally have begun to show that faster game they have talked about, starting 10-0 and 16-4 behind Butler and Gibson. And Gasol even throwing in a shot on an attempted lob to Gibson. Butler continued his strong play with a dozen in the first quarter as the Bulls led 36-28 after one on 60 percent shooting. The Bucks’ Greg Monroe then gave rookie Bobby Portis a lesson with four straight scores before the Bulls quickly went back to Gasol with his size to neutralize the Bucks’ big man. Monroe didn’t score again in the second quarter.

But the Bucks on Middleton’s shooting stayed within range of the Bulls. Rose had three spectacular driving scores and Butler added 20 points in the half on his power drives to the basket and another one of those lob connections from Gasol as the Bulls offense continued its recent fast paced play. But Milwaukee stayed within range, trailing 67-61 at halftime. The Bulls looked like they’d pull away as they went ahead 86-74 on a pair of Mirotic scores, the second a driving two-hand slam. But these Bulls/Bucks games have a history from last season’s bitter playoff series and the Bucks battled within 90-89. The Bulls went into the fourth quarter leading 94-89.

The reserves had a tough go through three quarters with just 10 points. But Bobby Portis picked up a pair of loose balls to score to match the Bucks early in the fourth as the Bulls led 100-94 with about eight minutes remaining. Rose’s return gave the Bulls a spurt with a jumper and a driving score and a pass to a cutting Tony Snell for a basket as the Bulls remained ahead by 10 as the clock went under six minutes.